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November 30, 2022

What are the most visited cities in the world?

Since the pandemic, the travel industry has had to reboot itself, with some countries still playing catch-up. So as the world is opening up, which cities are hosting the most visitors?

By Silvia Pellegrino

Global tourism may largely be back in full swing for many of the most visited cities, but the pandemic has left its mark on the industry. China, for example, is just one country still operating lockdown protocols. However, even pre-pandemic global tourism trends were already changing, from all-inclusive resorts to spiritual retreats, for example, as travellers, holidaymakers and mobile businesspeople have been searching for different experiences. 

most visited cities
How does Paris fair in the global ranking? (Photo by Sasin Paraksa/Shutterstock)

According to Audrey Hendley, president of American Express Travel, “the past two years proved how special exploration can be”, and Amex’s report on 2022 travel highlighted that 72% of respondents are planning on spending more money on domestic travel and 64% spent more money on international travel than they did in previous years.

The report concluded that consumers are most excited about visiting the following countries:

In 2022, the World Tourism Organisation’s yearly highlights report showed that there has been a growth of 57% in international tourism compared with pre-pandemic levels. However, the most visited cities in the world might still be surprising.

The world’s most visited cities

Dubai, UAE – 6.9 million

Dubai is breaking tourism records in 2022; in the first quarter alone, the hotel occupancy rate soared to 74%. In 2021, the city received close to 6.9 million international visitors, according to the Euromonitor International report. On the other hand, in the same year, it only saw one million domestic arrivals.

The opulent capital of the Emirate of Dubai, which is situated in the desert, is adorned with skyscrapers and malls. Dubai is one of the most lavish cities in the world, with a stunning view of sand beaches and even artificial snow.

The Burj al Arab, which has a private beach and a restaurant on the top floor with views of the entire city, is Dubai’s most famous hotel.

Shanghai, China – 6.1 million

With an impressive 155.2 million domestic travellers and 6.1 million international tourists in 2021 alone, Shanghai deserves second position.

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The city has one of the biggest seaports and it is also a major industrial hub; however, these are not the reasons why its tourism is so advanced. With several museums and cultural artefacts to choose from, Shanghai offers many tourist opportunities.

The Temple of Confucius is probably one of the most famous attractions, as well as the Museum of Shanghai, which houses bronzer, ceramics and other ancient relics typical of Chinese culture.

Paris, France – 5.5 million

According to the 2021 Top 100 City Destinations Index, France is the third most-visited country in the world, with 6.1 million international visitors and 14.4 million domestic trips. Paris alone saw almost 20 million visitors in 2019, making it the most visited city in Europe.

Since the pandemic, Paris lifted Covid-19 restrictions in March 2022, meaning that tourists no longer need to have a health pass or vaccination proof.

With its timeless architecture and historical monuments like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe, the city of love has a lot to offer. 

There is no doubt that strolling along the River Seine and exploring the Louvre is on many people’s bucket lists, but Paris is also the perfect destination for book shop lovers and, most importantly, food lovers.

Guangzhou – 4.7 million

Conventionally called Canton, Guangzhou is among the most densely populated cities in China. The city is very active and vibrant, with parks and greenery all around.

According to the 2021 Index, Guangzhou received 4.7 million international visitors and 55 million domestic trips.

Its historical nature and cultural past (and present) make it the perfect touristic destination: the annual Spring Festival, modern lifestyle, Yue and Chao operas are all important for the cultural personality of Guangzhou. Another factor that attracts tourists is the culinary life of the city, which focuses on fresh ingredients and exotic dishes like fried shark fin.

New York City, New York – 4.6 million

In 2021, the Index reports that New York City saw 4.6 million international tourists and 39.4 million domestic ones, with a substantial rise since 2020.

New Amsterdam, the Big Apple or the city of dreams… New York City has multiple personalities – the perfect melting pot of cultures, spread out over the five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island.

The various elements that make up New York City are known all around the world, like Wall Street, Greenwich Village and Broadway. There are many touristic hotspots and, even if the city halted its rumbling because of the pandemic, it is now lively again.

[Read more: London dethroned as the ‘best city in the UK’]

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